Five Facts to Help Reduce Your Risk of Colorectal Cancer: Second Leading Cause of Cancer Deaths in the U.S.

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month

Mar 1, 2012


The number two cancer killer in the U.S. is often preventable and highly curable.

"It's important for people to understand that, with proper screening, colon cancer can not only be detected early, but often can be prevented from developing," says Dr. Felice Schnoll-Sussman, a gastroenterologist and acting director of The Jay Monahan Center for Gastrointestinal Health at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Dr. Benjamin Lebwohl, a gastroenterologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, adds, "Despite the availability of effective screening tests, approximately one-third of Americans are not getting screened for colorectal cancer according to national recommendations."

Drs. Schnoll-Sussman and Lebwohl provide five facts that everyone should know to help reduce their risk of colon cancer.

  • Get screened— it could save your life. Screening can detect early cancers as well as polyps before they become cancer. Men and women at should begin screening at age 50.
  • Screening is done when you feel well! Colon polyps and early cancers often cause no symptoms. You could have colon cancer and not even know it. This is why screening—before symptoms occur—is essential!
  • Know your risk factors. Certain risk factors may require screening to be performed at a younger age. These include inflammatory bowel disease, a personal or family history of colon cancer, colon polyps, or certain hereditary conditions that can cause colon cancer, such as Lynch Syndrome or Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP). Ask your doctor about when to start screening if you have any of these risk factors.
  • Put down that cigarette and get moving. There are a few lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk, such as quitting smoking, avoiding excess intake of red and processed meats, maintaining a healthy body weight, and exercise. Smokers also have an increased risk of developing colon cancer. Replace those cigarettes with colorful fruits and vegetables!
  • Remember, colon cancer does not discriminate. One in twenty women and men are diagnosed with cancer of the colon or rectum in their lifetime. While those with a family history of colon polyps or cancer are at increased risk and need to begin screening at a younger age, the vast majority of people who develop colon cancer have no family history of the disease.

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, based in New York City, is the nation's largest not-for-profit, non-sectarian hospital, with 2,409 beds. The Hospital has nearly 2 million inpatient and outpatient visits in a year, including 12,797 deliveries and 195,294 visits to its emergency departments. NewYork-Presbyterian's 6,144 affiliated physicians and 19,376 staff provide state-of-the-art inpatient, ambulatory and preventive care in all areas of medicine at five major centers: NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian/The Allen Hospital and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester Division. One of the most comprehensive health care institutions in the world, the Hospital is committed to excellence in patient care, research, education and community service. NewYork-Presbyterian is the #1 hospital in the New York metropolitan area and is consistently ranked among the best academic medical institutions in the nation, according to U.S.News & World Report. The Hospital has academic affiliations with two of the nation's leading medical colleges: Weill Cornell Medical College and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. For more information, visit

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